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December 27 2008

(SPOILER) The Futon Critic reviews the new Dollhouse pilot. Unfortunately it's not a good one and in summing up describes Dollhouse as "the last thing you'd expect from Joss Whedon - unfunny, not that compelling and a limp noodle procedural."

There's been a lot of noise about whether or not it would be funny enough. The funny doesn't really bother me. BSG cracks a joke maybe once or twice a season and I love the show to death. But it's the reviews that say the show isn't compelling that worry me.

As many others have mentioned, a lot of the Joss's openers tend to be weak links. Though not the official first episode, "The Train Job" is my least favourite episode of Firefly and actually turned me off the series, until the DVDs arrived. I'm also not a huge fan of "City Of" and, though I do really like the first act, I wasn't in love with Dr. Horrible until Act Two kicked in...

The Buffy pilot, though... love it.
I have come to the conclusion that many reviewers are reviewing not Dollhouse, but Not-Buffy.
I didn't get the impression from that that he was ripping it for not being "Buffy". Criticizing missing questions of the nature of memory isn't a "why isn't this Buffy?" critique. It sounds, on its face, like the guy watched the episode and didn't like it as much as the original pilot. Is the original pilot just gone now, or is it going to be "Serenity" about halfway through the season? Or chopped up into a new episode?
Sunfire is exactly right. I would also caution that this review isn't just slightly spoilery but basically details almost every plot point.
@Sunfire: You mean to say that they're penalizing the show for not being Buffy, as opposed to basing the tone/quality of the show off its own merits? If that is what you mean to say, I'd have to agree with you.
KingofCretins: The original pilot is gone. Joss said they used bits from it for other episodes, and changed some things so that some events in it never happened.
KoC, the original pilot, last anyone said, was gone, period. Bits of it might have been written into other episodes, but it's not something that's going to be aired.

ETA that I don't see how this is a review of "Not-Buffy". It seems simply like a negative review of Dollhouse.

It seems a little absurd to me that some fans have taken to denigrating any negative review of Dollhouse, despite the fact that the reviewers have seen it while said fans have not.

ETA that I'm a little disappointed there's now blatant stuff right in episode one about . No idea how quickly it would have become blatant over the course of the 13 episodes anyway, but I'm fairly sure there wasn't anything blatant about it in the original pilot's script.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2008-12-28 05:26 ]
Well, the thing I hope they still get into an episode is the hilarious wedding bit and "it's the happiest day of my life!!", there's your humor.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-12-28 05:26 ]
grr argh....still trying to keep the faith, but it's a challenge. i've been wanting/expecting this show to be as fresh and engaging as buffy, so to hear a review with the word "limp" in it...grr argh.
@b!x: While I agree, this particular review may not be making that judgment, the early consensus seems to be that the pilot for Dollhouse is lacking the wit and quippy one-liners from Whedon's other pilots. To me, this is unfair. Okay, yes, it's perfectly reasonable to compare someone's new work to previous examples, but only to a certain extent. For instance, one could easily argue that the narrative structure for the original Firefly pilot may not be as evenly paced as The Train Job, or vice-versa. Fair enough, but complaining about a lack of funny in Dollhouse almost feels like complaining about the lack of citrus in an apple. "This apple isn't as citrusy as this orange." Yeah, because it's an apple. My point is, maybe Dollhouse isn't supposed to be so funny? Personally, I'm fine with that. Joss is funny in other works, so it's not like I can't find it elsewhere. Plus, I like the idea that he's not relying so much on being comedy-clever. Perhaps if this were on UPN (The CW), he might be pressured into making with the laughs. Who knows? Regardless, I remain optimistic and I do not deny anyone the negative opinion they may have of Dollhouse, just as long as they are fair and objective in their assessment.

P.S. I haven't read this particular review, so of course, the thoughts above don't necessarily pertain to it.
I get why the Buffy thing came up, and it wasn't entirely an unfair comment to make about at least one review. My only point was people really ought not to use that as a catch-all dismissal of any negative Dollhouse review. It's also entirely legitimate for a reviewer to say "didn't find the funny, and so it didn't work for me", even if other people might not end up having the same experience.

Mainly, I'm just saying that if fans are going to get all bent out of shape over reviews for something they haven't even seen for themselves yet, it's only going to make fans look foolish, again. Heh.
No idea how quickly it would have become blatant over the course of the 13 episodes anyway, but I'm fairly sure there wasn't anything blatant about it in the original pilot's script.

I remember it differently - which is to say that I seem to recall some bits about being in the original pilot script that I read.
The came up in the original pilot script. But it was never explicitly stated that , which is what this review seems to say happens in the new pilot.
@b!x: I more or less agree, which is why through all the worried reviews and such, I've continued to stay positive. As long as I'm not bored, I'm happy and I can't recall a time when Joss has ever bored me.

If they had originally planned to bring about that "revelation" at the end of the season, I'm kind of glad they dealt with it now. It might have come off as anti-climactic and mildly forced for me otherwise. It also reminds me of a couple of other films/shows that have done that before, but I don't want to mention them here so as not to spoil it for anyone.
Admittedly, my disappointment might simply be due to having encountered one approach first. They're certainly both entirely legitimate approaches to that particular element.
Just because Joss Whedon wrote it does not mean it has to be funny! He has proven he has more range than that!

Seriously, everyone needs to stop going into this expecting the next Buffy.
For the record, it took me quite a while to get into Angel. I was a big Buffy fan, but I trudged through the first season of Angel. Boy, am I glad I stuck with it!

I'm not worried.
This review does not at all read to me as a not-Buffy criticism. It sounds exactly like someone who saw the first pilot, thought it was fantastic (he links to his earlier review) and intriguing and wonderful, and thinks that the reboot is comparatively limp and disappointing. That sounds honest and not-good. The guy laments the new lack of philosophical musings about memory and identity in "Ghost." That's no not-Buffy criticism. That's a where did the cool show I read before go?

Of course, it could be that someone who's never seen the previous pilot wouldn't have the same reaction. Might be a comparison thing.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2008-12-28 07:22 ]
His review is completely contaminated by having read the original pilot and having knowledge about the show beforehand. Reviews from people coming to it fresh will be more relevant.

I've managed to avoid everything about the show except the basic concept, myself.
The only pitch perfect pilot ever was for "Arrested Development." Most pretty much suck.
Bryan Fuller crafted the perfect pilot for "Dead Like Me." Never saw another than even came close. That being said, Joss did great with both the first episodes of Buffy and Angel.
Hmm, I haven't been a big fan of any first episode from a Joss show, so I suppose this doesn't worry me too much. Obviously, I'd like to hear more positive stuff coming out, but I'll approach the show with tempered expectations for the first few episodes I suppose.

We should all keep in mind that Firefly didn't have a super awesome buzz in the lead up to it's premiere, so that's comforting.

And yeah, this review is criticizing the pilot for what it is, I think it's fair.
Weird. In reviewing the original pilot script, he called it a keeper.

My guess is that the pilot is trying to appeal to a wider audience, and as the show progresses it will open up and show more of what it's capable of. I expect it to seem stand-alone at first, and open up the arc later. Both Buffy and Angel were more procedural at first, and I actually think that's a good formula. You get to know the characters while you enjoy the initial premise, then half-way through season two, the main character's lover goes evil. It's a good formula.

Not saying that's what this review is complaining about, since I'm trying to stay unspoiled, but "it's too stand-alone" is an inevitable complaint.

And I agree with the above. Dollhouse is not the next Buffy. Nothing ever will be, so time to look for new things from the Joss Man. You know, he did once say he wanted to make a procedural one day... you never know.
I also haven't ever really been taken in by the first episode of any of Joss's shows. With Firefly, the episode Serenity didn't grab me when a friend initially tried to introduce me to the show. It was later, when I decided to give it another go, that I got hooked -- after seeing a couple of episodes. With Buffy, I didn't really get hooked until Prophecy Girl; and I didn't fall in love with the show until early in the second season. The main reason I stuck around was 'cos it was by the same guy as Firefly. Angel, I got into quicker (part of that was probably that it was in the same verse as Buffy, plus by the time I got my Angel DVDs I was pining for more Joss-showness), but it still took a couple of episodes before I was hooked. So even if Dollhouse's first episode isn't riveting, it doesn't mean that the show itself will be bad -- and if it's less confusing and more intelligible to an ordinary viewer, that probably isn't a bad thing.
Joss Whedon shows have affected me more profoundly than anybody else's. Ever. That said, I watched Buffy casually for months before realizing I'd fallen in love with it. With Firefly, I watched the butchered season out of loyalty to Joss and because I was seeing flashes of genius from time to time, but it took a while for the realization to sink in of just how good what I was seeing was.

Joss shows deepen over time. The characters deepen. The relationships deepen. The resonance from the simplest actions deepen. They have all unfailingly done so in the past and I don't have any reason to believe that that won't be the case this time. Hell, he deepened Dr. Horrible over 45 minutes.

I haven't read the reviews, but I don't find it hard to believe that the reviewers may be right about this particular episode. Or maybe even the first few episodes. But if the reviews imply that the show is and will be defined by its beginnings, that I would find hard to believe. Joss has said here that he thinks they're onto something now, but it took a while to get there. I fully expect that the whole will be greater than its parts and that I'll be bowled over a number of times by the end. That's assuming, and I do, that we'll at least see the entire season.

The main problem is that if it takes a while for ME to whip the concept into shape, 13 episodes is all we'll ever see. A crucial part of the audience will have already drifted off. At this point, that actually seems likely, given all the other negatives. Even for a confirmed pessimist like me, though, it's hard not to see the cup as half full, even assuming the worst. More than ten hours of Joss's, Tim's, Jane's and the others' work, the equivalent of five or six movies, coming up in the next four months! And maybe even renewal, who knows.

And if not, we may be seeing things like The Serving Girl, or more Dr. Horrible much sooner than we would otherwise, along with Joss's full attention back on Buffy 8. The future just doesn't seem that doomy and gloomy to me, no matter what happens.
This review upsets me. I have read the script for the original pilot and thought it was brilliant. Everyone seemed to agree and now the same people don't like the new pilot. Does this mean, I won't like it as well? Nonsense, it can't be. :(

On the other hand, Joss-shows tend to get brilliant in series, the first episodes are not always the best, simply because you have to put so much information in it and establish everything. I liked the pilot of "Buffy", though I watched it like three seasons later, which probably has influenced my opinion of it (my first BUFFY episode was "The Witch" when it aired around here for the first time). The first episode of "Angel" was pretty weak. The first episode of ANGEL was also very produceral, actually the entire first season of ANGEL was really produceral. I loved the Serenity pilot and thought it was the best pilot Joss has made (though I disliked the war-beginning). If however "Train Job" had been the first episode I watched, I probably wouldn't have bothered to watch more. "Dr. Horrible" I only started to like when the first song kicked in...

However, there is one thing that I strongly dislike about the description of the new pilot.

[ edited by Caroline on 2008-12-28 10:57 ]

[ edited by Caroline on 2008-12-28 10:58 ]
My two cents on this are not very interesting : as I watch TV series on dvds, I tend to accept weak first episodes, because, well, I have bought the dvds, so not doing so would be a waste. The only show that I have been unable to watch is Grey's anatomy.
As it was said, not funny is not a problem, as BSG proved it.
Donnie, everybody's making an effort to keep certain plot points invisible to readers. I have now done the same for your post.
I think people need to start assuming that when they click a spoiler link or thread on Whedonesque, it's going to be a spoiler. Not being snarky - I think a lot of people are so used to spoilers not being 'real' spoilers (since we've had nothing new to discuss for years), but this link tells you everything that happens in the pilot, so I think it's far game to assume there's gonna be spoilers aplenty in the months to come.

Or in other words, I've noticed a lot of people who I know don't like spoilers reading the spoiler threads.

[ edited by gossi on 2008-12-28 11:05 ]
I do think Dollhouse is going to suffer, to a point, because it's a Whedon show. At least when it comes to early reviews such as this one. Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, even Dr. Horrible have set a standard that all critics are going to go by which unfortunately also means that they are treating Joss as something of a one-trick pony, when it comes to how he writes television. Personally, I'd be more than happy for Dollhouse to lose almost all the humour I've been used to in Joss' previous shows, just so long as it's interesting and well written. Given the basic concept I'm not entirely sure how it possibly could be done with as much joking around as the previous shows. From everything I've read about Dollhouse, it's a show that immediately has a darker tone to it than even Angel had. That should be understood going in.

To be honest though, as has been said above, we've also got to accept that it might just not be any good. We haven't seen it. They have. Okay, TamaraC has seen it, but the rest of us are going on Whedon-faith and have to accept the possibility that this time it's not going to be what we expected or even what we might enjoy. The mix of writers and actors we have with Dollhouse might seem like gold in the making but there are no guarantees.

And have to agree with gossi about the spoiler thing. If you don't want your head bitten off then try not to stick it into a cage that says 'lions' on the door, y'know?
Meh, that review sounded a bit harsh. He's not giving the show a chance even though the pilot failed to satisfy his expectations.
thedarksleigher, I don't tend to watch a show unless I like the pilot.

Reviews of Firefly:

"To call "Firefly" a vast disappointment is an understatement. Whedon has proven he's capable of brilliance, but this is mere folly." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Whedon's new relativist characters seem a little lost. Admittedly, this is the point, but the show lacks the kind of psychological tension that makes Buffy snap. As much as the space and western genres have in common, Firefly could have probably done without the western soundtrack and the vague Bonanza look too." -- Salon

[ edited by gossi on 2008-12-28 11:28 ]
Aww, Shambleau that was wonderfully said. I'm looking at the glass as half full also. It wasn't until I watched Buffy a few episodes in, that I began to feel for the characters and the verse. Eventually, the Scoobies felt like family to me. With Angel, the second season did it for me. When I watched Firefly, I thought it was so different to what I had previously seen by Joss. By about the third and fourth episodes, I fell in love with the show. Before I knew it, it was over and gone. With withdrawal symptoms, I searched high and low for information on what happened to Firefly. Youtube is a wondrous thing. I saw Joss, Nathan and Alan and the rest at the conventions and I loved their humour and take on things. I then stumbled onto Whedonesque and from here, I saw Firefly DVDs floating in space and heard Wicked's Defying Gravity set to a montage of Firefly and then there was Dr Horrible and now Dollhouse. Yes, my glass is half full, actually, it runneth over. I have thirteen new Joss Whedon episodes and that's more than I had same time last year and the years before that. I'm just grateful for everything I've watched over the years and I'm grateful come what may.

[ edited by RollingInKittens on 2008-12-29 01:01 ]
I have a great deal of patience when it comes to validating alternative perspectives, and can take criticism as well as anyone. Still, it's no wonder Joss sings- we pick pick pick pick pick it apart...
Thanks Caroline for editing my post, though I thought it was obvious that we were going to talk about the things in the review here or wasn't it spoiler-marked before? Anyway, I know better the next time.
the original pilot was not spelling it out, but it was nevertheless strongly hinted at the possibility that . after reading the script of "Echo" I had pretty much no doubt that this was the case. but is not a story, and therefore can't be the end of one. "Ghost" seems to introduce that theme a little differently (and maybe even a little more directly, which is what Whedon was telling us all along...) but I'm not worried that that will dampen the mystery.

what i really didn't get was the critique that one needs the original pilot to understand the new one. just because there was a scene back then between , doesn't mean that the narrative has stayed the same. maybe this new story is building up revelations differently. and joss has said a couple of times that they have changed the timing of some events.
I'm definitely worried.
gossi If you have issues with rules/policies or site conventions, send us email. You've been here long enough to know that the comment thread is not the place to air them.
My bad, sorry.
Yeah, it was more of a huge hint in the original pilot, rather than a direct revelation.

I'm not too worried, because I never expected the first episode to be gold. In fact, I always expected the original pilot to be much better than the new one, and that has been more or less confirmed for me. I just hope that the show lasts long enough for Joss to start steering the show back to the tone of the original pilot.

Also, everyone in the know has been saying it picks up steam as it goes on, so I'm waiting until at least halfway through the season before I judge.
Just out of curiosity, since a lot of people are mentioning it on here... is it OK to ask about the availability of the original pilot script?

And, if so... where can one find a copy of the original pilot script?
I've been wondering why and how so many people seem to have read the original pilot script.
It might be worth reminding folks here about what Dana Walden (co-chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Television) said about Dollhouse:

The first two episodes ... are quite good. The third episode is as compelling a script as I’ve ever read. You just fly through it. It's engaging, it's exciting. It was the script where everyone said, "You know what, Joss is on to something. We need to give him some breathing room. Let's take a couple weeks down so the scripts can catch up to this direction."

I generally give a new show about three episodes anyway before making any kind of decision (unless its really, truly, horribly bad), but it definitely sounds like Episode 3 of Dollhouse is where we will really see what the show will be about.
Someone on Imdb has sent me the original pilot script a few months ago. If you look on the these days, I believe, that there is even one person who uploaded it and provided a link.
Found it - thank you!
Considering the insane amount of behind-the-scenes tinkering, I can't say I'm surprised by this review. I'll be entering into Dollhouse with supremely low expectations, and maybe, just maybe, I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Wow - just read the original pilot script and loved it. I honestly don't understand what was wrong with it. I had no problem following the story at all and it kept me engaged completely. Considering it was just the script, I'd say that's a good sign.

I also didn't think it was too complicated at all. In fact, it seemed like a pretty simple, easy-to-follow story, to me. If Joss had to simplify it... well, that worries me, because I really don't think it could easily get much simpler...

(By simple, I mean in terms of plot. The emotional and thematic aspects were wonderfully complex.)
I actually found myself a little confused by the whole beginning. I can see why joss (and the network) got rid of that "coming in sideways"-approach.
I just skimmed through the review, didn't want everything to be spoiled, though I have read some. But I think this guy's crazy. Keep in mind 'its not funny enough' was Fox's argument for 'Serenity', Firefly's pilot, and that was brilliant, IMHO (though the best episodes were later). It also had funny parts, though generally dark humor. Frankly I don't need every single Whedon episode to be hilarious, I just want a good show.
Whedon has not let me down yet, and I am sure Dollhouse will be great. Maybe the first episode won't be as great as his other stuff, but I'm sure the show will be great. I just hope that these negative reviews and the first episode don't chase people away.
I just hope that these negative reviews and the first episode don't chase people away.

that's my fear too, SteppeMerc. I'm pretty sure I will like Dollhouse, even if it takes three episodes to get there, so these reviews don't bother me much, but ratings are kinda influenced by publicity and stuff.

(on the other hand, imagine the possibilities, if it does get a hit: Dollhouse would be Joss Whedon's first critically panned, but commercially superb mainstream-success. live to see that day.)
I wouldn't say Dollhouse is critically panned just yet. From what I've seen, this is the only completely negative review. Others would range from mixed to positive, right?

We're still a month and a half away from the premiere... plenty of time for more, hopefully better, reviews.
I wouldn't say Dollhouse is critically panned just yet. From what I've seen, this is the only completely negative review. Others would range from mixed to positive, right?

that's of course true. I meant to say "Dollhouse could be", not "would be".:)

I really hope that Fox will give the pilot a chance to get reviewed by a lot more multipliers. posting it on hulu would be a start.
It's a Fox show, so it will definitely show up on Hulu.
Don't wanna read about Dollhouse. Wanna watch Dollhouse.
I didn't read the original pilot when I had a chance last spring . From what I understand it may be a bad assumption to think that everything in the original pilot will still hold true or make it into the show at some point. Right now all the original pilot does is muddy the waters.
The original pilot is useless in terms of its relevancy to the story as they decided to actually pursue it in series. But it's a useful as a legitimate point of comparison between the original notion of how to get into the story versus the new way of getting into the story. Such analysis is a part of criticism.

It's somewhat similar to the fact that the "kitchen sink" draft of Serenity is irrelevant to the story since it wasn't used, but it's useful as critical comparison of different approaches to getting into and executing Serenity's story.

While it will be a problem if people over-fixate upon the original pilot, "I preferred how the original got us into the world" is not an illegitimate critical opinion, since it is, after all, an opinion. If "filmed Serenity was better than the early draft" is a legitimate subjective opinion regardless of whether we agree with it, so is "original Dollhouse script is better than aired pilot" regardless of whether we agree with it.

Critics aren't required to just follow a creator's lead. If a writer abandons one approach, critics are not required to ignore that abandoned approach in their examination of what they feel works, doesn't work, or might have worked.
True Blood sucked at first. Now I can't wait for the second season. And that show came from Alan Ball, someone who is certainly not as much of a genius as Joss, but definitely comparable.
The problem is that FOX isn't exactly the network to be on if you have a slow burner show. Cable is. "True Blood" actually got a second season an episode into the first, despite having low ratings. All hail cable.

You can't have a sucky pilot on FOX - you need your audience right there. That said, being on Friday night will give it a longer time on air to try to find that audience.

[ edited by gossi on 2008-12-28 21:22 ]
I'm simply warning folks who choose to read it that it may not be helpful for them in understnding the actual current show since stuff has, you know, changed. I have zero interest in what is and what isn't legitimate criticism. I'm not a critic. I saw Ghost. I watched it three times. I thought it rocked. My opinion. Probably not legitimate criticism. Can't bring myself to care.
If you donīt understand a piece of a show like Dollhouse , you wait for the second episode . Thatīs what has worked with great shows all along . Only Heroes got as good review at the beginning and look to what it has led the show .

I think these critics are simply dumb and donīt get the whole concept .

Iīm gonna watch it.....

Hey , you know what just occurred to me ?

What is the network is doing these reviews in order to get the fans disspaointed and have an actual excuse to cancel the show on Joss?
But the critic isn't so dumb that he didn't love the original pilot script, and also states he has loved every other show Joss has done.

I really think we should be above calling every critic dumb for not liking the pilot, especially those of us who haven't had the advantage of seeing it ourselves.
I don't think these reviewers are dumb. They have a great but actually pretty difficult gig and are usually quite intelligent. I have a lot of respect for most of them. I'm just frustrated that they saw something so very different.

And, I'm sorry, but thinking that anyone at Fox wants this show to fail is just outright conspiracy theory nonsense.
Exactly, helcat. I'm as defensive about Joss's talents as the next fan, but at least in the case of this reviewer, dumbness doesn't seem to be the issue. If anything, the guy wants more of what he sees as the relative complexity of the first pilot draft. I doubt he doesn't "get" the concept. He doesn't like the re-envisioning. That's fair. Like b!X I think it's technically fair to trace the changes between drafts in approaches to the concept. One of the meta-stories being told in comparing drafts is about the costs and difficulties of collaborative art. Joss is telling this Dollhouse story with network involvement, not on his own. Things have had to be changed, different approaches have had to be used.

Relatedly, I personally think "Serenity" was a brilliant pilot and I can't believe that Fox made Joss dump it and write up "Train Job" with Tim in record time to replace it. I watched both episodes last night and noticed yet again how Joss and Tim sought to introduce the Firefly concept in "Train Job" in a much shorter time frame than Joss had used in "Serenity" and using different approaches. I sometimes wonder what I'd think of "Train Job" if I had never been able to see "Serenity."

Which leads me to say that TamaraC has a fair point. It might be easier to accept "Ghost" if one approaches it as its own thing rather than compare it to "Echo." "Echo" effectively no longer exists as part of the Dollhouse internal storyline, if I understand correctly what people have said. So at some point, people (like me, I'll admit) have to stop lamenting what might have been. At any rate, all this bad buzz, even if it comes from a fair and reasonable place as in this review (imo), is annoying and unhelpful. That LA Times story about Tahmoh Penikett kept referring to Dollhouse as a "troubled" production. Not helpful.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2008-12-28 22:08 ]
My morning has become something of a troubled production. Please alert the LA Times.
HAH! The same could be said of my late afternoon. Being an East Coaster, I was expecting the New York Times or the Washington Post to bang on my door for reactions and comments to their inevitable stories.
You know, in some ways these "Dollhouse is troubled"-talks help the show a bit. For a year it's one of the most anticipated new shows, but with all that negative buzz, people lower their expectations and therefore everyone who actually watches it will be overwhelmed by Joss's brilliance. Then he will try to achieve the goal he had all along: World dominion. Why are you looking so strange at me? I was just saying what everybody else was thinking. :|

ANYWAY, nobody can decrease my excitement for DOLLHOUSE. I just love the concept and I'm sure everything will turn out just fine. AND JOSS NEEDS EMMYS AND GOLDEN GLOBES - COME ON!
I have to admit, the "not funny" remark does worry me a bit. Since for me, "not funny" is not just a problem, it's a death warrant.

I would never keep watching a show that is not at least in some parts funny. It doesn't have to be pure comedy, but some funny parts should be there. Like "Buffy" and "Firefly" did so well. (This is also the reason, why season 6 of "Buffy" is my least favourite season, the middle was imho unfunny and just depressing.)

But of course I will wait and see and just hope for the best. Since I live in Europe, I might get it on dvd, before it is on tv anyway. :)
I'm still not worried bout this programme. It's good to hear others opinions about the show, and I wish they were more positive- but the reviews won't deter me from watching it, or from shouting to all my buddies to watch it either, if I like it.

As I'm in the UK, a part of me feels that the success of this show is out of my hands a bit...I'm not sure that Fox will be taking the European audience into account when re-commissioning or not? (I hope they do, I just don't know how this works)

Has it been confirmed that a channel in the UK be showing this? I am, like many I think, kind of presuming that Sky 1 will show it, but I've read nothing concrete confirming this.

If a UK channel does not pick up the first season...that's when the toys are being thrown out of the pram ;-)
I have to say, it sounds like what the critic was objecting to was the changes that Fox insisted on (making the show more accessible, less quirky, and more procedural). Well, they did the same thing (sort of) to Firefly and "The Train Job" was disappointing. But, on the other hand, it sounds like the changes have made it more accessible, less quirky, and more procedural which, let's face it, is not necessarily a bad thing in terms of the success of the show. Sure, Joss shows are wonderful and complex and quirky; they're critically acclaimed and have a limited, devoted audience. But, more popular shows are, well, more procedural and more accessible; it would not be an entirely bad thing (from the point of view of gaining an audience) if Dollhouse were less quirky and critically acclaimed and more accessible and popular with audiences.

(Also, I think we tend to overuse the term "procedural," when we mean "episodic." I'd be pretty surprised if Dollhouse had a consistent procedure that it followed in every episode.)
After everything I've already been through in this lifetime, I really try to shield myself from unintentional anguish. That includes artistic anguish, and I'm a little taken aback by some of the endless kvetching that's going on, not only in this topic but others, and picking at Dollhouse like a scab, and causing yourselves injury. How on earth can you enjoy art when you've already made a decision in your minds how you think a thing is going to "be" or worrying about an outcome that most certainly has not been decided? I mean these as rhetorical questions because only the people doing the kvetching and picking can answer them. Over-analyzation is a pleasure killer and I say that as someone who routinely thinks about movies and writes reviews about them for mostly my own pleasure. The only thing that majorly pisses me off and causes me hurt is remakes, and even that anger has ceased to be corrosive anymore.

Joss' work is important to me, but it isn't everything because quite frankly, I've got bigger fish to fry. By keeping some perspective, I will be open to this experience instead of going into it with a sense of doom.
The question I have is, who are we supposed to invest with? To identify with? How can it be Echo, the titular point of entry into the Dollverse, if we do not know who she is, where she came from and cannot attach a specific identity and personality to her? I understand the conceit here, that she lacks this and will be in process of regaining it, but audiences need to have an identification, and I think this show is starting from behind because we cannot know much about Echo.
If you've read the linked review you know that .
Interesting point, Dana5140. A point that I believe is immediately addressed in Ghost. Not sure it was addressed in the much lauded original script.
It wasn't. We actually addressed that difference in earlier inviso-text'd comments, but maybe not everyone was reading those because they were inviso-text'd.
I'm on my phone and haven't figured out how to see inviso text on an iPhone using the mobile whedonesque site. If anyone has figured it out, please let me know. Thanks.
This has probably been said before, but this thread is so long, that it would take me forever to get here. We understand that whatever the first episode is and presents has to be some sort of compromise between Joss and TPTB.

We know when Joss puts something together without the interference of suits, it's brilliant. What we can expect with "Dollhouse," I think, is that the Whedon brilliance will shine through over time in spite of the interference of those lesser minds at Fox who are always working to dumb-down television everywhere (presumably to their level). Not every moment of Buffy, Angel, or Firefly was perfect, and I expect most of that was also due to the suits.

There's some metaphor bouncing around in my head having to do with a forest and trees, but that may have more to do with my working on a recycling project than having some sort of great insight.

ETA: Do you realize how awesome "Serenity" wouldn't have been had we known what River was from the first episode?

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2008-12-29 01:25 ]
I was worried a while back when there was an article in which Joss was quoted as saying some gag from Firefly (or, one of the other shows) would be too broad for Dollhouse.

The most concerning element of the review is the (paraphrasing) 'people don't act/talk this way' bit. When a show like Buffy or The West Wing has an unrealistic 'people don't talk or act like this', there's usually some lightness, some idealism or some whimsy to go along with it. It balances it out. Sitcoms are made on that.

Without the awesome dialogue, The West Wing would be pretty thin (as it was, post-Sorkin). The focus shifts to subtext, thematic depth and just the general thought going into the writing. If, as this review speculates, some of that stuff has been dialed back to make the show more palatable... It's not a good sign. A thematically thin show with limp dialogue is exactly what bad television is.

It's just one episode, though. The Wire didn't have a transcendent pilot. It was just chapter one. Most shows don't have awesome pilots. Of course, The Wire pilot was compelling, the dialogue excellent, people talked/acted like real people, it was beautifully shot and performed... If Dollhouse doesn't have that going for it, that's... Yeah.

[ edited by Dirk on 2008-12-29 01:58 ]
"Not every moment of Buffy, Angel, or Firefly was perfect, and I expect most of that was also due to the suits."

Joss and the other writers had pretty near complete control over Buffy and Angel. So the less than perfect moments can't really be blamed on the WB or UPN.
TC and TOTB- yes, this is true, but at the same time, that little bit of knowledge is not enough to lead to the kind of investment that I think makes or breaks a show- though I will certainly wait and see. But I think this is going to be the key. If Echo does not resonate with viewers, if her awareness is abstruse, and this becomes a philosophical treatise on what constitutes humanness, I think the show will not be a success. We have to care. That will be the single most important challenge Joss will face.
I think that might depend. That little bit of knowledge for the viewer could be just enough for people to invest in rooting for her to actually discover what we've been shown about her.

But I grant you its the challenge, but I think even Joss has admitted that, at some point.
This focus group of one was instantly intrigued to know more about her. I won't say more for fear of overstepping. I care about the main character and am invested in what happens to her. YMMV

Is it February yet?

ETA that saying so apparently didn't make it February. Damn

[ edited by Let Down on 2008-12-29 05:13 ]
Something I havent heard speculated about on this site... what about BSG? It is by far the best show on tv, and, imo, along with Buffy and The Wire, may be the best show in the history of TV. Subjective, I know, but a pretty good argument could be made. The reviewer said unfunny and he is not the first... and everyone who reads this site is familiar with Mr. Whedon's feelings about BSG. What if it has influenced him in a way that has screwed with the Whedon formula? What if he is trying to be too dark, to be Ron Moore? I dont know, maybe Im stretching, and obviously all us fanboys are chomping on the bit to the point where we are jumping at everything. But I worry.

I worry about Fox. TamaraC said critics/reviewers are intelligent, but I completely disagree. Frustrated writers, looking to tear people down. But they are powerful. Dumb and powerful equals dangerous. They bash a pilot - from a guy who has a long and distinguished history of building a show, and maybe having to take some time and sacrifice some shit at the onset-and they put all kinds of pressure on the creative team. But just like music, like literature, the best of it takes time to sink in. Who hasnt had the experience of liking some derivative pop song at first and then getting completely sick of it? Or reading some trash by Stephen King or James Patterson, maybe being moderately entertained, and then forgetting about it immediately? But listen to OK Computer, read Crime and Punishment, it may be challenging at first but it sticks. So a network like Fox... I realize this has been said a hundred times here, but damn...

I believe I will have my hands on the pilot manana, so hopefully I can put my 2 cents in...

Not that Im comparing Mr. Whedon to Dostoyevsky, Im just saying the type of entertainment that challenges the audience is always the best.
I think this reviewer went into Dollhouse's first episode wanting the pilot but feared they wouldn't get it because of all the negative reports on changes and whatnot. This isn't an unbiased report. It may be accurate but I think no fan should take it as gospel until they have watched the first episode. The show should not be judged on a comparison of a discarded pilot. It should be judged on the merits of the episode and the series on the following episodes as well. We as ubbers should watch it with anticipation on what Joss will do as the season comes together.

Also I recently watched The Alphabet Killers and I can't wait for what ED will do with Echo.
Hm it's possible that BSG has influenced Dollhouse; only Joss Whedon could really say. But even if it has I don't know that there would be a problem with going 'too dark'. Brilliant but almost humourless Buffy episodes like 'The Body' and 'Passion' give a pretty good indication that Joss can do brilliant stuff without jokes.

And if Dollhouse gets renewed I fully expect to see some extremely hilarious episodes. I'd be surprised if Joss could resist the temptation.

Sidebar: does anyone know anything about Andrew Chambliss who is apparently writing episode 10?

Edit: If anyone is interesetd, he was assistant to the executive producer on Heroes and Crossing Jordan

[ edited by Let Down on 2008-12-29 06:24 ]
Also: has it struck anyone else that Joss himself isn't actually credited as writer for all that many episodes? Just two out of the 10 episodes with definite writers.

[ edited by Let Down on 2008-12-29 06:23 ]

[ edited by Let Down on 2008-12-29 06:24 ]
Let Down, are you basing that on imdb? Not at all a reliable source for unaired material. It is almost always wrong and incomplete before something is actually aired and the real credits are shown. Don't pay any attention to it.
Yeah well I hope you are right. The general tone of Buffy was pretty light, though. I will say my favorite arc of Angel was the second half of season 3 and season 4, so maybe dark will be good. But whereas ultimately Angel and co, Buffy and co are GOOD and eventually do the right thing or at least redeem themselves, try to redeem themselves for bad decisions, most of the BSG core are... well maybe not so good. Adama jr and sr, Roslyn, Starbuck, Tigh - they have all flirted - and more - with "evil" or "darkness" with no compunction, no regret at any point. It makes them fascinating. My point was-can Mr Whedon do that and still make it compelling? From what we know of Dollhouse, Echo is probably going to do some horrific things, and the question becomes will the structure of the show and the writing be able to keep her watchable and fascinating and compelling? He has never tried that. Of course if she becomes self-aware and begins to regret these things, then the show becomes Angel and will probably be entertaining. I just hope he reaches for something higher, different. Ascendant. Its all conjecture anyway, I was just riffing.
All good points. Of course, Angel still let Darla and Druscilla kill thoat Wolfram and Hart people, and there were times when I hated Buffy (the characacter). But it's true that, unlike in BSG, we pretty much always knew they would go back to being righteous. They were heroes. Can Joss do the other thing? I'd put my money on yes, mainly because Joss has about as acute an understanding of human psychology, including its darker aspects, as any writer I know.

"Let Down, are you basing that on imdb? Not at all a reliable source for unaired material. It is almost always wrong and incomplete before something is actually aired and the real credits are shown. Don't pay any attention to it."

I'm confused. If you're talking about what I said about Chambliss, then I was interested in what he'd done in the past so I think imdb is a pretty reliable guide (though he may have done some stuff other than Dollhouse which is yet to air)

If you were talking about me saying Joss hadn't written many episodes, I took that from the official Dollhouse fansite.
I would say killing lawyers is a heroic act...
This isn't an unbiased report.

Erm, it's a review. Those aren't unbiased things. What do people think reviews are, exactly?
I was asking where you got the info and warning you that imdb is notoriously unreliable. If Joss is executive producing then I will put a large sum of money on a bet that he has approved every single word in every script. I wouldn't put all that much stock in the official site either.

There is a difference between the credited writer and who has final say. Imagine Joss as outlining the story, then assigning it to a writer, then reviewing the drafts and sending it back for revisions. Finally he tweaks the finished product if it isn't up to snuff. He could do all that and never be credited as the writer.
Oh of course. I have no doubt that he's approved every script of every episode and also that he's written and tweaked many bits of episodes he's not credited with writing. But obviously he would have done more on the episodes he IS credited with writing and directing than those he IS NOT. And if you look at the first season of Firefly - he has far more credits there.

(As for the official fansite, that is all taken from info given in interviews with Joss and others. It's the most up-to-date info available)
Also, hey! I'm a law student. Although I agree that the world would be better off without me and my kind

[ edited by Let Down on 2008-12-29 08:36 ]
If you say so. In my experience, official sites are run by a PR department that has little to no contact with the actual production and are usually woefully uninformed and behind the times. If you like them that is great. Maybe they are doing their job better than usual.
It's not really a question of whether or not I like them. The information on the fansite is actually put their by ordinary fans and all of it can be sourced to interviews which have popped up on Whedonesque. I don't think anyone disputes the writing and directing credits that are up there.
Well, actually, it should be noted that some of the writing credits on there were originally wrong, until someone who had read the scripts posted a list of them to a mailing list, and those then got added as corrections to the wiki.

So, it's not necessarily true that all the info there is correct, since there was at least once instance of mass changes to what it had there. Heh.
So, it's not necessarily true that all the info there is correct, since there was at least once instance of mass changes to what it had there. Heh.

...and that change came about by stuff that has not been said in interviews.

as for the reliability: the official wiki is a hybrid. there are fans, and there's the PR-people. I can't help but to prefer the fan-run wiki (which btw will hopefully become a hybrid of it's own kind; it had that previously unreleased info about Episode 10/Chambliss first, added by an anonymous IP...)
Well, yeah, but I'm talking about what is up there currently which I think we're all in agreement is probably accurate. My point still remains that Joss isn't credited with writing all that many episodes.
I wouldn't expect any more than 3 episodes in the season to be Joss episodes, really. The opener and the finale, of course, and then just one of the middle episodes. It's only a 13 episode season.

Besides, I'm sure there are multiple scenes written by Joss himself in every episode, as was the case with Buffy.
Um, can we drop the "critics are just frustrated writers who want to tear everything down" arguments? That's facile. Critics can be literate, informed, intelligent and powerful; there are no critics I trust more than Roger Ebert (film) and Robert Parker (wine), whom I implicitly trust and whose thoughts tend to follow mine. Just because a critic does not write a review that makes us happy is no reason to dis him or her; had this same critic written a positive review, no one here would be arguing with him and trying to diminish his thoughts. We'd be lauding his prescience. Let's keep it real.
I agree with Dana, and would like to extend such sentiments to include the "suits" in the television industry. These people (generally) aren't stupid, and are only doing their job in trying to make shows successful while still being accurate to the creator's vision. It's a tough job, mistakes happen.

[ edited by Racoon Boy on 2008-12-29 13:35 ]
Yes, thank you, on the "not all critics suck" plea.

UPC said:
True Blood sucked at first. Now I can't wait for the second season. And that show came from Alan Ball, someone who is certainly not as much of a genius as Joss, but definitely comparable.

Nooo, Alan Ball is so right up there with Joss and a few other major TV creator-writer dudes, he is ! (I in a childish argumentative mood...Alan Ball brings that out often).

When I say "True Blood sucked at first", I usually just mean the premiere, your mileage may vary. The second ep was leaps and bounds better, I thought, mostly 'cause it was hilarious. The majority of Season 1 rocked (there was maybe a tiny bit of stalling with some of the characters just before the last couple episodes there) and it had a great finale (although I think Brotherhood wins for best finale of 2009 of the shows I watched, but that might've been a series finale). Regardless of how deep they end up going with it, it's probably the most fun I've had with TV (as far as dramas go, not counting comedies like The Office) in years. Owed heavily to the solid writing and excellent cast.

It's not worth fretting over Dollhouse. At the end of the day there'll still be good shit on TV and DVD for everyone to watch that they haven't discovered yet or just haven't gotten around to, there's enough diversity for everyone, though admittedly not nearly enough quality genre stuff out there (my backlog is still pretty sizeable, but I've slowed down on TV-on-DVD rentals and purchases the last couple years). February will come, we'll see it, we'll judge for ourselves. We can't control the bad buzz, we can get excited about the positive buzz. That's about all you can do, outside of promoting to Nielsen-box-owning folk you might know and I guess online to potentially get people to buy it from iTunes or whatever it ends up on. I won't bother with my friends 'cause, if they don't watch it aired like me/with me (or DVD--I don't do crappy downloads, I hate sitting in my computer chair to watch TV, stuff like Dr Horrible excepted) they will download it without fail, I can't stop 'em (and to be fair, being non-ratings-box-owners and Canadians, it might not really matter that they download anyway. It does matter when they burn the DVDs instead of buying or renting the official ones like I do, but again I can't stop or convince them).

[ edited by Kris on 2008-12-29 13:50 ]
Yep, Dana5140. Though there probably are some other criticisms that can be fairly leveled at the review: the repeated references to it not being funny (must it be?); the slight implication that it should be like Joss's other work ("the last thing you'd expect from Joss Whedon"); its dismissal of the 'new "Dollhouse"' rather than sticking to an assessment of the only episode the reviewer has actually seen; the description of Dollhouse as a procedural show rather than serialized (can we tell that from one episode?) and the assumption that this is a bad thing (Firefly, Angel seasons 1 and 4, and Buffy season 1 were all more or less standalone). I think those things are all fair criticisms if ultimately fairly minor ones.

(I also think it's at least possible that he would have reviewed the episode more favourably if he knew nothing of the original pilot)

"I wouldn't expect any more than 3 episodes in the season to be Joss episodes, really. The opener and the finale, of course, and then just one of the middle episodes. It's only a 13 episode season."

The reason I thought there might be more was that in Firefly (about the same number of episodes as Dollhouse) he wrote three episodes (one of which was two hours long) and co-wrote two others in the same season that he wrote 2 episodes of Buffy (just the ones he's credited for) and one particularly awesome episode of Angel. Whereas at the moment Dollhouse seems to be the main thing he has going on.

Anyway, it doesn't matter that much. I know he has the final say etc. but I always know something pretty great is coming when I see the golden words 'Written and Directed by Joss Whedon'
Continuing from what Kris said, what is there that we can do to help Dollhouse survive? In particular, is there any way of watching on the internet (eg. on a Fox site) that will count as ratings?

The only other thing I can think of (assuming that the renewal decision will be made before season 1 DVDs go on sale) is writing polite letters saying how much we like Dollhouse
Dollhouse episodes should be shown on Hulu, which will definitely be counted in some way.

Also, spread the word. Tell everyone you know who might be interested about February 13th. Good word of mouth buzz certainly can't hurt.
what is there that we can do to help Dollhouse survive?

The less fan activity the better as far as I am concerned. Otherwise we just look crazy and prejudice people's opinion of Joss' work.
Thanks, JMaloney
Oh wait, I can't watch Hulu videos in Australia. Anything else I can do?
Simon, can't be said enough.
What Tonya J said.
I do think, though, that Let Down's question is a good one: "In particular, is there any way of watching on the internet (eg. on a Fox site) that will count as ratings?"

Making sure we watch it when it airs in a medium that ensures that we are counted would seem to be fairly rational, helpful activity, as opposed to crazy-and-offputting (like wearing our kookie mannequin outfits to work on 2/13, or mailing Buttloads of Barbies to Fox.)

I don't know enough to know what, since we are not a Nielsen house, would be the best way to achieve that.
I bet if we all watched it from the living rooms of the Fox powers-that-be it would have an impact.
It's premiering on a Friday night. I agree that fan campaign type stuff seems like a bad move, but viewing parties that are purely celebratory seem potentially quite fun.
FBC will track all Hulu, and iTunes viewings/transactions in addition to Nielsen ratings and DVR +3 and +7.
I'm not talking about 'Save Dollhouse' campaigns and voodoo dolls of Fox executives (although actually ...). I was just wondering how to watch it (and get lots of friends to watch it) so that it counted. Thanks for the info, I'll watch on

"I bet if we all watched it from the living rooms of the Fox powers-that-be it would have an impact."

Well, damn. is also only available to those in the US.
The One True b!X: "I bet if we all watched it from the living rooms of the Fox powers-that-be it would have an impact."

This is the best idea ever in an Ocean of Really Awesome Fan Activity Ideas! And since it's not at all crazy, we should totally do this!!! I will bring the chips and dips and the non-endangered birthday tigers.

Failing that, I think mebbe I'll watch it when it airs on the actual TV-TV, and then view it later on a Fox site (Thanks, TamaraC) to register the viewing.

(Sorry you can't watch it on, Let Down - sooner or later, the worldwide nature of TV & movie audiences is going to have to be dealt with in terms of contracts & copyright issues and so on. They are losing/alienating thousands of potential viewers by failing to sort it out internationally...)
"FBC will track all Hulu, and iTunes viewings/transactions in addition to Nielsen ratings and DVR +3 and +7."

iTunes is key. The fact that Dr. Horrible snagged the #1 most downloaded episode and season shortly after it was released made news everywhere, and industry people certainly noticed. Did anyone get an iTunes gift certificate for Christmas? Save it til Dollhouse airs and use it to support the show that way. We've always been a fandom that put their money where their interests were, and that's a strong draw for a network. Dollhouse should be no different (unless you really dislike the show, then do whatever you want).
Let Down I am in Australia too and it is easy-peasy to find programs which allow you to get around the International restrictions on most sites. Google 'hulu + freeware + proxy' and check out the first couple of entries!
Someone on Imdb has sent me the original pilot script a few months ago. If you look on the these days, I believe, that there is even one person who uploaded it and provided a link.

spoiler tv has recently posted the script for "Echo".
Ooh, by February I might have my new Mac which will let me actually watch iTunes TV shows. So I may do that, dollrific.
wiesengrund, thank you so much for that link. Not for the Dollhouse script, I've had that for ages, but for the Virtuality script. That show sounds wicked promising.
... for the Virtuality script. That show sounds wicked promising.

Hollywood Reporter has indicated that Fox might want it retooled into more of a "mainstream drama".
The One True b!X when I said not an unbiased report-I meant that the writer of this review has been influenced by the original script and all the knowledge of the stress on set and the fears that Fox is making this an unJoss show. I do realize that reviews are the opinion of who is writing it. Most Joss fans have this potential to go into Dollhouse looking for all that is wrong instead of what is right. That's a huge danger I think because the good of what does air could be really good but if you go into the show looking for what's not good it could really cloud judgments.

I think we all should watch the show (those of us who like the premise, Joss and Eliza at least)and either like what airs or not. What could have beens should be left for later.
I did indeed hear about that b!X, and while it did worry me a little, I'm still trying to remain hopeful.
Well I hope there will be funny lines, I think its needed to balance out Whedons darker aspects. But I suppose darkness may be all the rage now, people seem to like it on BSG, which i stopped watching because of that. If I want darkness i can watch the news :-/
IceHunter wrote:

Well I hope there will be funny lines, I think its needed to balance out Whedons darker aspects. But I suppose darkness may be all the rage now, people seem to like it on BSG, which i stopped watching because of that. If I want darkness i can watch the news :-/

I totally agree.

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